Britain shocked by attempt to pin blame on Scarlette’s mother

March 13th, 2008 - 11:29 am ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, March 13 (IANS) In an echo of the debate in the Indian parliament, Britons have expressed shock at the attempt by Indian police and politicians to say the mother of a British teenager found murdered in Goa had been negligent. With the police changing the cause of death from drowning to murder and then arresting two suspects, Britons have also begun to support the call for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the murder of 15-year-old Scarlette Keeling.

“In a case where there has been an initial mistake in declaring it an accidental death, followed by an astonishingly swift arrest, it would be better to have an independent force investigating it - even if only for a second look,” said Sabine Zanker, head of the legal team at Fair Trials International, a pressure group.

Zanker also expressed outrage at the idea that somehow the mother, Fiona Mackeown, was to blame for the murder because she had left her daughter in the care of a family in Goa.

“If that is what the mother was comfortable doing, then that’s what we have to accept. Regardless of whether the girl was left alone, it wasn’t an intention to kill her,” said Zanker whose group represents Britons who have suffered miscarriage of justice abroad.

Scarlette’s semi-naked body was found on Goa’s Anjuna Beach last month. The police initially said she had drowned but a doughty campaign by Mackeown forced it to order a second autopsy, after which it said she was murdered.

Not only has the British media voiced scepticism about the local police in Goa, but a large number of ordinary Britons have called up radio stations to speak of their support for Scarlette’s mother.

Echoing the indignation expressed by Indian MP Brinda Karat in the Lok Sabha, many of the women callers said blaming MacKeown or her bohemian lifestyle for her daughter’s murder was unacceptable.

“The belated admission by police in Goa that Scarlette Keeling may have been murdered is as shocking in revealing local corruption as it is damaging to one of India’s most popular tourist destinations,” The Times said in an editorial that was critical of both local authorities and tourists.

“Those going on holiday must also understand the dangers of what can happen when the law, especially on drugs, is not enforced,” it added.

Meanwhile, the British MP representing the west Devon constituency where Scarlette lived with her family told IANS it was important for authorities in India to conclude an investigation that is “thorough, accurate and transparent”.

“I have enormous respect for India and am quite confident that once the right people have control of the investigation, it will be thorough,” Geoffrey Cox of the Tory party said.

Authorities should be aware that “the eyes of the world are on this investigation” and ensure that “the result should be a just outcome”, he added.

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